All of us, regardless of worldview, are looking for the first, uncaused cause of the universe. As an atheist (and committed philosophical naturalist), I believed science would eventually identify such a cause, and I expected the answer to be something other than “God.” Alexander Vilenkin (professor of Physics and Director of the Institute of Cosmology at Tufts University), for example, believes this cause is an eternal, primordial, quantum vacuum from which our universe (and many, many others) popped into existence. The vacuum, according to Vilenkin, was the first, uncaused cause; making questions like, “Where did the vacuum come from?” irrelevant and meaningless. First, uncaused causes don’t need a cause, after all.
Interestingly, cosmologists have refined their thinking on this issue over the past several decades. Early researchers (like Einstein) initially rejected the idea our universe had a beginning at all. For thinkers like Einstein, our universe was the uncaused environment from which stars and planetary systems evolved. Why is everyone so obsessed with identifying an eternal entity and an uncaused, first cause? Because the nature of this first cause will determine which worldview (atheism or theism) is true. For committed atheists, like Carl Sagan, the desire to identify the eternal is deeply metaphysical:
“The Cosmos is everything that ever was, is and will be.”
That’s a rather theological sounding statement, and Sagan intended it to be. For Sagan, the universe (the “Cosmos”) was worthy of worship. In fact, most of us will direct this kind of reverent awe to the first, uncaused cause in any series of causal events leading to our existence. For Vilenkin, the primordial vacuum merits this sort of awe and inspiration. As a theist and a Christian, I have come to place my awe in the uncreated Creator. All of us are in awe of something, and this something typically lies at the beginning of a causal chain. Why is this true? Because each of us intuitively understands something called the Principle of Causality. If you came into a room and observed a ball rolling across the floor, you would naturally look around to see who kicked it. The ball didn’t start moving on its own without the help of someone (or something) to begin its movement. The ball has no ability to move without an initial cause; an initial mover. Scientists recognize this reality and have developed a list of things requiring a cause:
Every effect has a cause Everything that begins has a cause Everything that changes has a cause Everything that is finite has a cause Everything that is limited has a cause
Even the famous skeptic, David Hume, when questioned about causal relationships such as these, confirmed the necessity of the Principle of Causality:
“I never asserted so absurd a proposition as that anything might arise without a cause.”
Great thinkers from every worldview must wrestle with the Principle of Causality as it relates to the universe, especially given the evidence the universe is not eternally old (we’ll look at some of this evidence tomorrow). If the universe had a beginning, it cannot be the first, uncaused cause. If this is true, we are warranted in trying to identify such an initial cause, as this first, uncaused cause is an object of awe and worship. When we apply the Principle of Causality to the nature of the universe, a classic argument for the existence of God emerges (the “Cosmological Argument”):
(2) Anything That Has a Beginning Must Be Caused By Something Else (Affirmed by the Principal of Causality)
(3) Therefore, the Universe Must Have a Cause (Inferred from the Principal of Causality)
(4) The First Cause Must Be Eternal and Uncaused (Declared by definition)
(5) The Cause is God (Offered as the most reasonable uncaused first cause)
The Principle of Causality requires us to look for the cause of our universe based on the finite nature of the Cosmos. The first cause must also be uncaused in order for us to avoid the irrational conclusion of an infinite series of causes (more on that in future posts). All of us then, regardless of worldview, are searching for the uncaused, first cause worthy of insertion in the fifth line of the Cosmological Argument. Is this first cause impersonal (like Vilenkin’s primordial vacuum) or personal (like God)? Like any logical case, the first premise of the Cosmological Argument is critical to its conclusion. Tomorrow on the Cold Case Christianity Blog we’ll examine the evidence related to the beginning of the universe. This evidence is important because it establishes the need for a cosmic first cause, laying the foundation for the first premise of the Cosmological Argument. It all begins, however, with the Principle of Causality, a simple, intuitive series of claims ultimately pointing to the existence of God.
I say this because his view represents what I think most movies are, a mixture of good and bad elements. And he acknowledges both with fairness.
His five positives are: Noah’s context among all films is positive. Noah knows its place among Bible films. Noah follows the basic plotline of the biblical story. Noah takes some key Gospel doctrines seriously. Noah takes some textual elements literally.
His five negatives are: Noah’s main character does not ring true. The environmental agenda is overdone. The theistic evolution scene will be a concern for many. The Nephilim concept seems convoluted. Secondary biblical details are blurred.
Those first two were my biggest concern about the script that I had read. We will see if they have pulled back on the extremity of those depictions or not. As I’ve always said, I was analyzing a script, not the movie, and we will see if there is much of a change there.
I have to say, I’m especially disappointed to find out that “in the trailer where Noah says, ‘I am not alone,’ he is not talking about God.”
See Godawa’s post for links to the other two reviews.
Eliza Bridgman's lifelong ambition was to be a missionary. She began her work in China in 1844. Over the course of her career, she founded school for girls in Shanghai and Peking, giving opportunities for young women who otherwise would have ended up as prostitutes, in forced labor, or starving. Her school in Peking eventually became part of Yenching University, one of the first Chinese universities.
You can read more about a fascinating study about the positive long term affect proselytizing missionaries had on the cultures they served, in temporal terms as well as eternal. The pattern that emerges over time and across the globe is pretty astounding.
In response to Donald Miller’s explanation of why he’s not a regular attender of a local church, Jared Wilson argued for the importance of it, saying that local church involvement plays an important role in confronting our tendency to reject authority and embrace an unhealthy individualism:
I think a lot of the rejections in evangelicalism today of God’s sovereignty and biblical infallibility are not unrelated to the more recent conversations about the need to attend regular local church services…. I think it’s because we don’t want anyone being the boss of us, and because doctrines like biblical infallibility (and biblical perspicuity) and experiences like church services are too restrictive, too conforming, too narrow a space for “me to be me.”…
Certainly one can be self-centered inside a church gathering, but the church gathering is nevertheless where all the sinners ought to be at the appointed time, smack-dab in the middle of a congregational experience specifically organized against the idolatry of personal preference. Not just because God says to do it — although that’s reason enough — but because it is good for us to have our singular voice lost in the sea of corporate praise and it is good for us to shut our social-media-motor-mouths for a bit and hear “Thus saith the Lord.” We should go to church — not mainly, but nevertheless — because it confronts and stunts our spiritual autonomy and individualism. We should go lest we become Cainites, saying “I’m not my brother’s keeper.” Or reverse Cainites, “My brothers aren’t my keepers.”
Of course most of us prefer to worship at the First Church of Hanging Out With My Friends at The Coffee Shop. Of course the more elite of us prefer to worship at My Own Speaking Engagements Community Church. Because, we believe, we “learn better” when we’re the ones doing the talking.
But something happens when you stop submitting to the communal listening of congregational worship and start filling the air with your own free range spiritual rhetoric. Your talk of God starts to sound less like God. He starts sounding like an idea, a theory, a concept. He stops sounding like the God of the Bible, the God who commands and demands, the God who is love but also holy, gracious but also just, et cetera. He begins to sound less like the God “who is who he is” and more like the God who is as you like him….
Awe and reverence. Authority and submission. Proclamation and supplication. Command and obedience. We fear these dynamics because we fear losing our selves, but we know what Jesus said to do to find yourself. If what Jesus says is true, maybe saving reverence for God is lost in the refusal to put one’s self in positions of difficulty, vulnerability, self-denial. Maybe seeking to find our own true path away from the “stifling confines” of the “traditional church” has actually taken us out of the garden of worship and into the wilderness, right into the rubble of Babel in fact.
Here's a common challenge on the issue of marriage:
One of the standard arguments provided by the homophobic right against gay marriage is a form of what we call the domino fallacy or the slippery slope argument. The idea is that if you take that seemingly innocuous first step, it automatically leads to a second, which will force a third, and so on and so on until, next thing you know, there we are in Satan's own livingroom listening to Yanni on 8-track. In the case of marriage, the argument goes, if we open up the institution to same-sex couples, then we will be forced down the slippery slope to include all sorts of unusual couplings including cross-species arrangements.
How would you respond to this one? Let us know in the comments, then look for Alan's answer to this challenge on Thursday.
(Incidentally, if you read the rest of the post linked above, you'll find that the author commits the fallacy of begging the question by defining marriage in a way that "proves" opposing same-sex marriage is bigotry. But of course, it's the definition of marriage that's the very thing in question.)